Mark Webber’s The End of Love is a small masterpiece, a film filled with such aching sadness and yet such hopeful possibilities that it consistently reminds me of how fragile life is, and how we often take it for granted. This film will be too much for some people, too raw and nakedly emotional, and I totally understand that; you have to want to take this particular journey as it goes to some very real places that might be uncomfortable for some viewers to process. And I know that my perception and respect for The End of Love has changed throughout the last few years, as I now have a child of my own, and could never begin to think of raising him without his mother. The power of family and what it does to people can’t really be put into words, and when this bond is cut short, it produces feelings of fear, uncertainty, and anger. Webber’s delicate screenplay never leaned too hard in any one direction, and because he cast himself in the lead role and acted with his own two-year old son, Isaac, the entire film has an authentic quality that is rarely seen on screen. The moments between the two of them are incredible to observe, as a real paternal instinct can be viewed all over Webber’s expressions, while Isaac steals the show at every point, delivering an impossibly adorable performance that never felt cloying because of the skillful way that Webber structured the entire piece.
Webber plays a struggling actor living in Los Angeles, shuffling from one audition to the next, without any sense that his career is gaining any forward momentum. Then, suddenly, his life is changed in an instant and forever, when his wife, and the mother of their child, unexpectedly dies, leaving him as a confused and stressed single parent, who is still trying to figure himself out as a person, let alone being fully prepared to tend to the needs of a small child. The observational aspects to Webber’s filmmaking aesthetic produce a low-key vibe that very much feels inspired by European art cinema, in that the film is more concerned with catching small moments in an effort to create a larger picture. The supporting cast includes some familiar faces such as Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Michael Angarano, Aubrey Plaza, Alia Shawkat, and Jason Ritter, while the underutilized and alluring actress Shannyn Sossamon cut a convincing portrait of a single mother trying to navigate some of the same precarious waters. There’s a level of sensitivity in Webber’s direction that casts a spell over the viewer, and despite a low budget, the film was expertly shot by the smart cinematographer Patrice Cochet, who knew exactly when to opt for close-ups and when to settle his camera in the background, so that it could simply observe the behavior and relationships of the various characters, especially those moments between father and son. What an amazing document to have as a parent, as this is a piece of art that truly defines the term forever lasting. And while the movie is called The End of Love, it could easily have been called The Beginning of Love, as it presents a world that demands change and acceptance, while demonstrating that people are capable of just about anything, no matter the situation, if they use their heart and their mind to accomplish their goals.